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Ride a Train into Disney History at Walt Disney World Resort

Russ J. Stacey

by , Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Clankety clank…chug chug…Woot! Woot!

Anyone who’s been to Magic Kingdom Park is familiar with the ubiquitous Walt Disney World Railroad as it transports guests on its 1.5-mile track. But do you know the story behind the trains? How they run? The names of the trains?

You can learn all that and more, as I did recently, on The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. This three-hour outing before the park opens to guests, offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the railroad’s operations, led by a tour guide who also happens to be one of the engineers. Joe, our guide, was lively, entertaining and informative, weaving tales of the railroad’s story and its complexities, general railroad lore, and especially of Walt’s longtime affinity for trains.


We found out what the fireman does (fire up and tend to the steam engine…and to “make the engineer happy”), how the station conductor and train conductor coordinate so the trains leave the stations safely, how the steam engines run, and how they’re prepped each morning and repaired in the roundhouse.

The park’s four trains—the Walter E. Disney, Lilly Belle, Roy O. Disney and Roger E. Broggie—run on low-sulfur diesel that heats the water that creates the steam power. Originally wood burners, these rusting steam engines were rescued from Yucatan, Mexico, and painstakingly refurbished to the magnificent machines we know today.

Walt’s fascination with trains began in his youth working for the Santa Fe Railroad. He later built his own railroad, known as the Carolwood Pacific, in his backyard at 1/8 scale. Not surprisingly, Walt came up with the initial sketches for both Mickey Mouse and Disneyland park while riding on trains.

You don’t have to be a train aficionado to enjoy The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. And the great thing about it is each tour guide is unique, sharing their own wisdom and facts, making each tour a possibly brand-new experience. It’s a fascinating journey into an important chapter of Disney history not to be missed. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations.


  • MAN, steam trains are cool… I’ve ridden on practically every tourist railroad in Texas—which is where I live. I saw a “condensed” video of the tour, and, unfortunately, after passing the turnout (or, for you non-railroaders, “switch”) on the way backstage to the Roundhouse, the guy taping had to shut off his camera temporarily, supposedly because of sensitive items back there. (That was probably because of the technical “secrets” back there that allow the Magic of the parks to happen. I don’t know, because I don’t work there, but all the same I WANT TO FIND OUT! However, I know that won’t happen because, I admit, I’m a BIG blabbermouth. I’ll tell anyone that asks anything they want to know about ANYTHING, even stuff that’s supposedly not supposed to be revealed to the public; trade and/or technical secrets included!) Of course, no evidence (AKA video, documents, or other tangible forms of information to back up my claims) means no crime done, unless you’re caught red-handed. (But, knowing me, I probably would be.) Anyway, I’m a steamer FANATIC (yes, I said FANATIC, and BOY, DO I EVER MEAN IT [My dream is to have steam power placed BACK IN MAINSTREAM REVENUE SERVICE FOR BOTH FREIGHT AND PASSENGER TRAINS ON ALL RAILROADS IN THE US, IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM, and for ALL DIESELS, DIESEL-ELECTRICS, AND STRAIGHT ELECTRIC TRACTION LOCOMOTIVES to be OBLITERATED FROM U.S. service! That’s my ideal. It’ll never happen, but still—!])

  • I wish there was a tour for the other half of the roundhouse…what’s on top…the Mark VI’s!!! While I love the trains…I would love to explore Monorail Shop and to witness them moving out in the morning would be an experience I don’t think I’d forget.

  • I love riding the train at Magic Kingdom! It always holds a special memory and I often dream that I’m on it (for the 100th time) and it takes me on a brand new unexplored route. That’s what I get for looking at Disney ’til the wee hours of the morning!

  • My wife and I took the tour in early December. It was great to see behind the scenes and to talk with the different cast members. You won’t get any better up close pictures of the locomotives than on this tour. Great fun.

  • My 13 year old son and I are looking forward to doing this tour during our summer trip. It looks fantastic!

  • My Husband and I took this tour last year. It was awesome. I do wish they could have a similar tour at Disneyland.

  • I took this tour with my dad way back in 1999 and had a lot of informative fun learning the operation; now I live in Los Angeles and get to visit his Carolwood barn!

  • I have taken five different tours offered at either WDW or Disneyland – this one is the best!! Definitely recommend making the time for it while at WDW. We were fortunate to also have Joe as our tour guide – his passion and enthusiasm for the trains is awesome! I will take this tour again.

  • I’m from Mérida, Yucatán, and every time I hear these trains were rescued from here, still can’t believe it! It’s amazing how these trains look now, considering that one engine, similar to the park’s four trains, is still here, at a museum. I loved when I experienced for first time Disney’s steam train and I would love to take this tour!

  • Wow! I’d love to see a similar tour at the Disneyland Resort. Sign me up!

  • Took my dad on this back around 2008 and he still talks about it. Great tour and now one of my favorite Disney memories with my dad too. 🙂

  • This tour is great fun. I have done it numerous times because I am a steam train geek. The stories the cast members are interesting and it is fun to go back stage to see the roundhouse.

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